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It looks like pesticide residues are increasing in our food. Not good, especially since we don't know what chronic low-levels of these residues do to us. And remember, we're exposed to mixtures of these residues daily, not just one at a time. The only way to reduce exposure to these pesticide residues, including the controversial and widely used pesticides 2,4-D and glyphosate, is by eating organic foods. [See all posts on PESTICIDES for more on their effects and concerns.] Excerpts from an article by journalist Carey Gillam in Environmental Health News:

Hold the plum pudding: US food sampling shows troubling pesticide residues

New data released recently by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows a rise in the occurrence of pesticide residues detected in thousands of samples of commonly consumed foods. Documents obtained from the agency through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests also show the government is bracing for more, with the use of at least one controversial weed killing chemical – the herbicide known as 2,4-D - expected to triple in the next year.

And buried deep within the FDA's latest annual pesticide residue report is data showing that a controversial insecticide called chlorpyrifos, which is marketed by Dow Chemical and is banned from household use due to known dangers, was the fourth-most prevalent pesticide found in foods out of 207 pesticides detected.

Overall, about 50 percent of domestic food and 43 percent of imported foods sampled showed pesticide residues in the FDA's testing for fiscal year 2015, which is the period covered in the new report. That is up from about 37 percent of domestic and 28 percent of imported foods found with residues in 2010, and up from 38.5 percent and 39 percent, respectively, found by FDA a decade earlier in 2005.

FDA sampling has been shrinking over the years, dropping about 25 percent from a decade ago from more than 7,900 samples to 5,989 samples tested in its latest report. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also does annual pesticide residue testing, but looks at more than 10,000 samples. The latest USDA residue report, which also was for the 2015 time period, found about 85 percent of samples contained pesticide residues.

Notably, samples of fruits and vegetables – considered healthy food choices – showed the highest frequency of pesticide residues in the new FDA report. Roughly 82 percent of domestic American fruits and 62 percent of domestic vegetables carried residues of weed killers, insecticides and other pesticides commonly used by farmers.

Looking at imported fruits and vegetables, the FDA found that roughly 51 percent of imported fruits and 47 percent of imported vegetables carried residues. Overall, the imported foods had more illegally high levels of pesticide residues than did domestic foods sampled. More than 9 percent of both imported fruits and vegetables were considered in violation of legal pesticide residue limits compared to only 2.2 percent of American-grown fruits and 3.8 percent of domestic vegetables. 

The Environmental Protection Agency sets legal limits, referred to as "maximum residue limits" (MRLs) for pesticide residues on foods. The FDA and USDA routinely assure consumers that if residues are below the established MRLs, they are both legal and safe. But many scientists and medical professionals disagree, saying regulatory methods are outdated and too dependent on input from the chemical industry players selling the pesticides. 

Separate from the FDA's published residue report, internal FDA documents show the agency working to get a handle on the residues of two widely used herbicides - glyphosate and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D)An internal memo dated in May of this year obtained through FOIA states that 2,4-D use is "expected to triple in the coming year" because of new genetically engineered crops designed to tolerate direct application of the herbicideNeither FDA nor USDA has routinely tested for glyphosate despite the fact it is the world's most widely used herbicide, and testing by academics, consumer groups and other countries has shown residues of the weed killer in food.

Why are huge (42+ pound) bags of lawn chemicals being sold with foods in stores? Should stacked bags of pesticides ever be placed next to foods in stores? Is this legal? Why is this happening in warehouse stores that call themselves environmentally conscious and brag about carrying organic foods? Why does the store not recognize that the stacked bags of lawn chemicals (pesticides) are dangerous, that they can tear and spill pesticides, or that they always give off an awful chemical odor that can be smelled many aisles away? (this means we are breathing in those chemicals) Why is it OK to place foods and enormous bags of pesticides in the same shopping cart, perhaps with children next to and handling the bags? (Note: I have personally seen this!) Why aren't the pesticides sold in a separate area (like in Home Depot or Lowe's) or perhaps only in garden centers?  These pesticide products all say "Keep out of reach of children", to "avoid skin contact", and to "avoid inhaling". They are dangerous and do not belong in food stores.

The following photos were taken by me over the course of several years (2012 to 2015) in two Costco stores in NJ. The bags of "Turf Builder Winterguard Plus Weed Control" contain both fertilizer and pesticides and are commonly known as "Weed and Feed". Pesticides that kill weeds are also known as herbicides, and here the 2 pesticides (the active ingredients) are 2,4-D and mecoprop-p. The first pesticide was one of the the two pesticides found in the Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War, and is linked to many serious health problems, including cancer in both people and dogs. (Note: scroll down for more information on these 2 pesticides).The lawn chemical/pesticide bags smell - a strong nauseating smell that can be smelled many aisles away. Sometimes there are even spilled pesticides on the floor from leaking bags.

Pesticides get into the body through the skin (dermal exposure) or eyes, through the mouth (ingesting it, including residues on foods), or through inhalation. Note that all odors represent an exposure to a chemical. Pesticide products contain a number of ingredients – the “active ingredients” that targets the pest (weed or insect), and other ingredients that are just labeled "inert ingredients" or "other ingredients". Any one of them may produce a sickening odor. Odors also may be related to a breakdown product, a warning agent (a smelly substance added to make otherwise odorless products easier to detect), or a chemical added to the formula to hide a bad odor. Currently, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide, leaving consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxics present in the inert or "other" ingredients of pesticide products. Pesticide manufacturers argue they cannot release information on inert ingredients because they are trade secrets, and if released, their products could be duplicated. Quite often inert ingredients constitute over 95% of the pesticide product, and can be as toxic as the active ingredients. 

So.... what this means is that just by being able to smell the pesticide-fertilizers, we are being exposed to some chemicals through inhalation. And when this product is placed by foods, one doesn't smell food but instead inhales chemicals, perhaps the pesticides. These huge bags easily leak and spill (unlike small metal containers or cans). Leaking bags also result in shopping carts being contaminated with pesticides, as well as the store floor. By placing the bags of pesticides next to foods, Costco is also sending the message to customers that the product is "safe", but that is incorrect. Pesticides that are dangerous (toxic) must be registered with the EPA. Harmless things don't have to be registered - toxic chemicals do. And yes, a few years ago I contacted Costco management about this issue, but their response was to pooh-pooh my concerns, and that I must "be sensitive". And they continued as before. The following are some photos from 2012 to 2015 at 2 Costco warehouse stores.

Next to refrigerated foods

Contains 2,4-D and Mecoprop-p

Next to bakery goods

By the meat

2,4-D (or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid is a systemic herbicide (broadleaf weed-killer). It is linked to several cancers, especially non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and soft tissue sarcoma, and can have other serious health effects including endocrine disruption (disruption of hormones), thyroid effects, neurotoxicity (nervous system damage), and developmental and reproductive effects. As the post of Oct.19, 2015 indicated, a person's exposure to 2,4-D can be measured in a person's urine. There is much still unknown about what constant low-level exposure to 2,4-D does to a fetus, developing child, or adult of any age. Of big concern is that the use of 2,4-D is increasing in the USA because of the development of new genetically modified soybean and corn strains that are resistant to 2,4-D. Thus farmers are using increasingly large amounts of 2,4-D on these corn and soybean crops in an attempt to control weeds. And yes, this means consumers are eating more foods with 2,4-D residues. (Note: long-term effects unknown.)

Mecoprop-p is a chlorophenoxy herbicide that is used to control a variety of weeds. It is not as toxic as 2,4-D, but it also has various health effects.

Go to the excellent Beyond Pesticides site for more information about all sorts of pesticides, resources, up-to-date information on pesticide laws, and more.

Several studies have found that when children eat organic foods, especially fruits and vegetables, the amount of pesticides in their bodies declines significantly. Most organophosphorus pesticides have been phased out for residential use, but they are still widely used in agriculture, and so these pesticides are detected in both foods and people. This latest study looked at 20 children living in urban Oakland, Calif., and 20 in the agricultural community of Salinas, about 100 miles south. The children (between 3 - 6 years of age) ate a conventional diet for four days and an organic diet for seven days and then returned to conventional foods for five days. Their urine was collected daily and analyzed for pesticides, specifically by looking at pesticide metabolites (pesticide breakdown products).

Several classes of pesticides were frequently detected, for they were found in more than 72 percent of their urine samples, and 2,4-D was detected in 90% of samples. Of the six most frequently detected pesticides, two decreased by nearly 50 percent when children were on the organic diet, and levels of the common herbicide 2,4-D fell by 25 percent. Amounts of some pesticides were not significantly lower on the organic diet, but these were pesticides associated with use around homes for pest control, and not on foods (e.g., pyrethroids, diazinon, malathion). Bottom line: eat as many organic foods as possible to lower pesticide levels in the  body. To further reduce pesticide levels in the body - avoid pesticide use around the home and garden. Instead, use least toxic IPM (Integrated Pest Management) or organic pest control and organic gardening.

From Medical Xpress: Organic produce means reduced pesticides in kids, study shows

New research out of the Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health at UC Berkeley shows that switching from conventional to organic fruits and vegetables, even for just a few days, significantly reduces pesticide levels in children's bodies.

Twenty children in Oakland, California and 20 in Salinas, California, all 3 to 6 years old, had their urine tested for 16 days during the study. For the first four, they ate conventional produce, for the next seven their diet was organic, and then conventional for the last five. The levels of several pesticides that showed up in daily testing dropped by one-quarter to one-half during the organic stretch.

Excerpts from the original study from Environmental Health Perspectives: Effect of Organic Diet Intervention on Pesticide Exposures in Young Children Living in Low-Income Urban and Agricultural Communities

Recent organic diet intervention studies suggest that diet is a significant source of pesticide exposure in young children....We aimed to determine whether consuming an organic diet reduced urinary pesticide metabolite concentrations in 40 Mexican-American children, 3–6 years of age, living in California urban and agricultural communities. In 2006, we collected urine samples over 16 consecutive days from children who consumed conventionally grown food for 4 days, organic food for 7 days, and then conventionally grown food for 5 days. We measured 23 metabolites, reflecting potential exposure to organophosphorous (OP), pyrethroid, and other pesticides used in homes and agriculture.

For six metabolites with detection frequencies > 50%, adjusted geometric mean concentrations during the organic phase were generally lower for all children, and were significant for total dialkylphosphates (DAPs) and dimethyl DAPs (DMs; metabolites of OP insecticides) and 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, a herbicide), with reductions of 40%, 49%, and 25%, respectively (p < 0.01). Chemical-specific metabolite concentrations for several OP pesticides, pyrethroids, and herbicides were either infrequently detected and/or not significantly affected by diet.

Although most residential uses of many organophosphorus (OP) pesticides, including chlorpyrifos and diazinon, have been phased out since the mid-2000s due to potential health risks to children, they have continued to be used in agriculture [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2000, 2001]. The use of OP pesticides in agriculture could result in ingestion of residues in food, and recent studies suggest that dietary intake of produce and juices may account for a significant proportion of OP pesticide exposure in young children (Lu et al. 2006b, 2008; Morgan et al. 2005; Smith-Spangler et al. 2012; Wilson et al. 2003). Some of the best evidence supporting these findings includes results from diet intervention studies where significant reductions in excreted urinary pesticide metabolites were observed in young children when they consumed an organic diet (Lu et al. 2006b, 2008)....The lower urinary pesticide metabolite concentrations found in children eating organic diets is consistent with food residue monitoring data that has shown lower pesticide residue levels in organic versus conventionally grown food [Baker et al. 2002; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2008].

Other factors associated with children’s cumulative pesticide exposures include socioeconomic status and location of residence. For example, low-income children may experience higher exposures to pesticides, particularly pyrethroids, because of poor housing quality and associated pest infestations and home pesticide use (Bradman et al. 2005a; Quirós-Alcalá et al. 2011; Whyatt et al. 2002). Children living in agricultural areas, compared with children living in non-agricultural suburban areas, are exposed to higher ambient and residential contamination from drift or volatilization from nearby agricultural applications and take-home residue by farmworking parents (Bradman et al. 2011; Harnly et al. 2009;Lu et al. 2000; Quirós-Alcalá et al. 2011).

Our finding that an organic diet was not associated with a significant reduction in pyrethroid metabolite (3-PBA) excretion for all children is not surprising given that these pesticides are primarily used in and around homes and not commonly applied to food crops; the finding is also consistent with Lu et al. (2006a), who reported that residential use is a more significant pyrethroid exposure factor for children than a conventional diet. 

Several studies indicate that dietary intake is a potential route of exposure for herbicides.....Overall, these studies indicate that 2,4-D may be present in food and support our finding that the lower levels observed in our population during the organic diet phase were attributable to lower dietary exposure.

In summary, consistent with other studies, urinary 2,4-D and two measures of OP pesticide exposure (total DMs and total DAP metabolites) were lower in children eating an organic diet. Other frequently detected metabolites for pyrethroids, diethyl OP pesticides, and the herbicide metolachlor were not significantly lower during the organic diet phase. Further, several compound-specific herbicide and OP pesticide metabolites had low detection frequencies, indicating that diet was not an important exposure source for these pesticides (e.g., diazinon, malathion) in this population. Last, independent of diet, most frequently detected metabolites were generally higher in Salinas compared with Oakland children, with DMs and metolachlor at or near significance (p = 0.06 and 0.03, respectively), suggesting additional sources of pesticide exposure for children living in agricultural communities.

    Research as long ago as 1991 found that households with dogs that developed malignant lymphoma applied 2,4-D herbicides (weedkillers) to their lawns more frequently than households where the dogs did not develop malignant lymphoma. In addition, the risk of canine malignant lymphoma rose much higher with four or more yearly applications of 2,4-D. This finding that exposure to certain lawn chemicals by dogs increases the risk of the dogs developing canine malignant lymphoma was confirmed in a 2012 study .

The following excerpts from an article geared toward students nicely explains a recent study that looked at the exposure that dogs have to lawn pesticides, specifically looking at 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba (commonly used weed-killers or herbicides). The study looked at exposure of pet dogs to 2.4-D by measuring it in the dog's urine, and also looked at how long the herbicides come off the grass where it had been applied. They found widespread detection of lawn chemicals in the urine of pet dogs, that lawn chemicals were commonly detected on both treated and "untreated" lawns (probably due to "drift"), that the lawn chemicals persisted on grass for at least 48 hours after application, and that the chemicals can persist longer on grass under certain environmental conditions (e.g., dry brown grass).

Finally, the researchers said that dogs may serve as sentinels for human exposures (think of them as canaries in the mine) - if they are exposed to this degree, then humans must also be highly exposed. Dogs get malignant lymphomas after a short latency period, while for humans it is years longer to develop cancer. NOTE: weed-killers are herbicides, a type of pesticide. My question is: why are people still applying pesticides to their lawns when there are links between pesticides and cancers? Is the weed-free lawn more important than health? From Science News for Students:

Weed killers may go from plant to pooch

Many people treat their lawns with weed killers — also known as herbicides — to rid themselves of unwanted plants, such as dandelions. Most people know to keep small children away from the grass after it’s been sprayed. That’s because these chemicals can be dangerous if children touched the treated lawn and then put their hands to their mouths. New data show that herbicides also can end up in dogs. The evidence: It comes out the other end in the animals’ urine.

Angus Murphy studies plants at the University of Maryland in College Park. He began to wonder if dogs might be exposed to herbicides when he saw neighborhood signs that warned a lawn had been sprayed with weed killers. “I would see the dogs running through the yards when the grass was still wet,” he recalls. “I looked at the signs and they said don’t re-enter [the lawn] for 24 hours or until the treatment was dry.”So he teamed up with other scientists to investigate how much weed killer might come off the grass while it was wet — and whether those chemicals might go from plant to pooch.

First, Murphy and his group had to find out how long herbicide sprays can be brushed off with casual contact. They applied the same amount of three different kinds of weed killers to different patches of grass.But the amount of chemical coming off grass might change if the grass was wet or dry. So the scientists added herbicides to green grass that was wet (to simulate a recent rain) or dry. To find out if it made a difference whether the plants were dead or alive, the researchers also applied weed killer to brown grass....In green grass, two of the weed killers rubbed off on both tries the first day, but not after that. A third chemical known as 2,4-D — for 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic (Di-KLOR-oh-fen-OX-ee-uh-SEE-tic) acid — rubbed off onto the cloth for two full days after application. And on dry, brown lawns, 2,4-D was still coming off the grass even three days later. That was long after the blades of grass were dry.

So the herbicides were coming off the grass. But unless the chemicals get into animals, it might not pose risks. So Murphy and his group recruited 33 dogs and their owners. They included people who sprayed weed killer on their lawns and those who did not. Then, before and after lawns had been treated with herbicides, the researchers collected the dogs' pee....Most dogs — including half of those whose owners did not treat their lawns — had herbicides in their urine. Among dogs whose owners did spray weed killers, 14 out of 25 animals had chemicals in their urine before the latest spray of their lawn. After spraying, 19 out of 25 dogs were excreting the chemicals.“The herbicides move into the animals and it’s detectable,” says Murphy.

“What surprised us the most was the extent to which there was uptake in the animals when [their lawns] weren’t having treatments,” he says. These animals appear to get exposed during walks in the neighborhood. This can include grassy areas where others have used weed killers. 

The original research article from Science of the Total Environment: Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical application

Exposure to herbicide-treated lawns has been associated with significantly higher bladder cancer risk in dogs. This work was performed to further characterize lawn chemical exposures in dogs, and to determine environmental factors associated with chemical residence time on grass. In addition to concern for canine health, a strong justification for the work was that dogs may serve as sentinels for potentially harmful environmental exposures in humans. Experimentally, herbicides [2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 4-chloro-2-methylphenoxypropionic acid (MCPP), dicamba] were applied to grass plots under different conditions (e.g., green, dry brown, wet, and recently mowed grass). Chemicals in dislodgeable residues were measured by LC-MS at 0.17, 1, 24, 48, 72 h post treatment.

In a separate study, 2,4-D, MCPP, and dithiopyr concentrations were measured in the urine of dogs and in dislodgeable grass residues in households that applied or did not apply chemicals in the preceding 48 h. Chemicals were measured at 0, 24, and 48 h post application in treated households and at time 0 in untreated control households. Residence times of 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba were significantly prolonged (P < 0.05) on dry brown grass compared to green grass. Chemicals were detected in the urine of dogs in 14 of 25 households before lawn treatment, in 19 of 25 households after lawn treatment, and in 4 of 8 untreated households. Chemicals were commonly detected in grass residues from treated lawns, and from untreated lawns suggesting chemical drift from nearby treated areas. Thus dogs could be exposed to chemicals through contact with their own lawn (treated or contaminated through drift) or through contact with other grassy areas if they travel.